DFP political leader Kent Vital
DFP political leader Kent Vital

Last week we started discussing the first foundation principle that will guide some of the actions that the Dominica Freedom Party will take to help guide our people towards prosperity even though we are not yet in office. We noted that as we pursue the big idea (making Dominica the nature island of the world), will be a major determinant of the people's prosperity – hence the first foundation principle – land is precious.

We advised that our nationals by birth and descent should avoid selling their land if they can avoid it; and if they must sell, they should give priority to selling to another Dominican. Moreover, we advised that instead of selling the land, landowners who are capable should start farming it and/or lease it to young people for farming. We do also encourage selling land to young Dominicans for farming.

But what are the potential opportunities for earnings from the land that the Dominica Freedom Party is keen to support? To begin with, given the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having globally and the severe global recession it has sparked, farming is emerging to be an indispensable coping mechanism and food security tool. While we all hope for the best in terms of the quest for a vaccine and/or a cure for COVID-19, the severe human and economic impact of the pandemic is daunting and unfortunately there is no end in sight yet. Hence, while hoping for the best, we should prepare for the worst. Part of that preparation for us here in Dominica must be the growing and consumption of heathy foods. Let us get back to working the land with a passion! Let us also do so intelligently using the best of our traditional techniques combined with modern farming knowledge. But we also encourage engaging in organic farming (or to minimize the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides as much as possible) as consuming such foods is better for our health and there is another advantage of pursuing organic farming that we will address shortly. So, let us go into farming for our own consumption and health and that of our families, friends and neighbours.

Secondly, there may be some opportunity to cultivate crops for sale. In that regard the Dominica Freedom Party encourages the hucksters to keep up and improve upon their efforts. However, hucksters may find it more challenging to expand sale of fresh produce to the region given that other territories may also be making agriculture a priority pandemic coping and food security tool. However, this is still evolving and should there be a significant rebound in tourism in the region, we will be on a track back to normal and there will be the opportunity to better organize the huckster trade in other to increase exports. We urge the government of Dominica to contemplate ways to better organize the huckster trade and should they need our advice on this we are willing to give it. Moreover, the Dominica Freedom Party will seek out strategic partners in our efforts to encourage greater exports of fresh produce. Furthermore, there are some private sector persons that had promising agro-processing initiatives prior to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The DFP will seek opportunity to encourage these entrepreneurs to continue or restart their operations with a greater focus on improving their international competitiveness. As they expand capacity, this will provide opportunities for farmers to sell more produce.

Should a farmer find himself producing more produce than can be consumed, sell as fresh produce or sell to agro-processors, then our advice is start preserving excess for home use. Let us have some fun doing that! It may just lead to a viable cottage industry! So do try your hand at producing homemade chutney, jams and jellies, pickles, dried fruit to be used as snack or with breakfast cereals, among other possibilities.

We strongly encourage that as you do the above, also prepare to engage in agricultural tourism. This may be a game changer and I am leading the charge in that regard with my own project! I am putting my money where my mouth is. In the second part in this series we had explained that agricultural tourism involves the direct entertainment or/and accommodation of guests on agricultural holdings. At the same time, the holding would be cultivated and the produce could be sold on fresh produce markets or to agro-processors, while some production can be targeted for the use of the on-farm guests. Pursuing this type of dual activity on the farm holding can result in multiple streams of income and thus it will enhance the viability of the farm holding. We had also noted that the farmer must practice organic agriculture as it would not be safe to entertain guests in a farm environment that uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Next week we will continue with this discussion and we will also set out the second foundation principle – overcoming constraints.

Kent Vital Political Leader Dominica Freedom Party